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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Kung Fu Panda (review)

It’s kinda like The Forbidden Kingdom meets a reverse Ratatouille: Po (the voice of Jack Black: Margot at the Wedding), a clumsy panda, works in his father’s noodle shop yet dreams of being a member of the legendary kung fu warrior team the Furious Five… and then he gets his chance, and he’s hopeless at it. Where this charming and gorgeously animated flick — which kids of all ages, including the grownup ones, will love — goes from there is into a realm that encompasses both enrapturing silliness and pretty profound wisdom, for a kiddie flick. And even better, it’s the kind of wisdom that kids will understand and take to heart… and it’s not such a bad reminder for us grownups, either. The Five’s teacher, Master Shifu (the voice of Dustin Hoffman: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium) reluctantly takes Po under his wing — well, he doesn’t have wings, unlike Po’s goose father; Shifu is a small red panda, and he’d be adorable if he didn’t have to be so stern and serious all the time — when an ancient prophecy names Po the unlikely defender of the Valley of Peace. Po learns to trust himself; Shifu learns that a teacher just needs to uncover every student’s hidden motivation; and we call are the recipients of the insight of those who know food: I love the secret of Secret Ingredient Soup! Plus, there’s a dumpling duel. Beautiful animation, a few good laughs, and dumplings. What more do you need?


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MPAA: rated PG for sequences of martial arts action

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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